Aviation Language

 
 

Improving Pilot-Controller Communication

My efforts are directed toward governmental agencies related to aviation. These include the FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal.

 
 

Letters and Tabulations

THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: BEAUTIFUL AND DANGEROUS

The beautiful literary traits for which English is praised, such as a wealth of words, are exactly the opposite of the needs for aviation language. Conversation between pilots and controllers needs to be terse and clear, but English now has 38 dialects. Aviation needs freedom from ambiguities, but English has hundreds of them. International aviation personnel need a language which is easily learned, but English is so full of irregularities that even its native speakers require 12 years of schooling in it. Stability over the years is needed in aviation, but there is neither an Academy nor a set of prestated rules to exert linguistic discipline over the evolution of English.

In spite of these disadvantages, in 1951 English was designated for international aviation use. This was done without any supporting data or experimentation. Now, 50 years later, we have reason to believe that the language defects of English are responsible for many crashes and near crashes. Here are some examples:
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1976, Zagreb 176 deaths Language errors by the controller.
1977, Tenerife 583 deaths Dutch pilot used Dutch syntax w. English words.
1980, Tenerife 146 deaths Confusion: TURN LEFT and TURNS LEFT
1981, Corsica 180 deaths Ambiguous language
1983, Madrid 169 deaths Faulty communication procedure
1986, E. Berlin 82 deaths Confusion: LEFT and RIGHT
1989, Azores 144 deaths Communication error with tower
1989, Surinam 177 deaths Pilot ignored tower instructions
1990, New York 73 deaths Wrong message about fuel shortage
1993, China 16 deaths Pilot didnt understand PULL UP.
1995, Colombia 159 deaths Controller could not converse in English.
1996, India 349 deaths Hindi controller, Arab pilot, Kazakh pilot
1999, Kosovo 24 deaths Italian pilot of UN flight couldnt understand
computer generated warning.
1999, Chicago no deaths During takeoff, Korean 747 pilot skillfully avoided a 747 intruder onto the runway. 380 lives were in danger.
2000, Taiwan 82 deaths Pilot misunderstood runway 5R instead of 5L
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Page 12 of The Pilots Radio Communication Handbook suggests that 12 to 22% of general aviation accidents are likely to be due to faulty radio communications. This would average 17%. An Italian source estimated at least 11% . Since dead pilots cannot testify as to which word or phrase confused or distracted them, there is no way to establish a precise figure. But certainly minimizing the burden of confusion on pilots due to language will contribute to safer aviation.

1. AVIATION LANGUAGE CONFUSION

Now that there are 52 Open Skies agreements between the U.S. and other countries, every major airport in the world might receive airplanes from anywhere in the world. This fact necessitates a universal language for aviation. English has been tried since 1951, but it is inherently too confusing for all concerned.

Currently in the U.S. there is a crazy quilt of 336 phrases pilots must deal with, They are itemized in The Pilots Reference to ATC Procedures and Phraseology. It also lists 49 phrases which differ with the ICAO phrases used in the rest of the world. The 80 page FAA Pilot/Controller Glossary cites 44 differences in definitions with respect to ICAO. The Pilots Pocket Decoder lists more than 2,000 abbreviations and acronyms. These complexities impose too great a need for memorization onto a pilot, who often must make split-second decisions.

This chaos of words can cause American pilots to misunderstand American controllers. One result is that they erroneously and dangerously move onto active runways. They did so 429 times in the U.S. last year. Eleven runway accidents dating back to 1972 have claimed 719 lives and destroyed 20 aircraft. Over the past 10 years 45 people have died in runway accidents. (Aviation Week, v87, No. 2; Pg. 36) The book, Fatal Words:Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes (U. of Chicago Press, 1994) deals primarily with confusion between native speakers of English.

Captain John Cox, U.S. Airways said, Ours is a lexicon of abbreviations, acronyms, and jargon, and just consider how many different versions of English we have. Often our language can be confusing - we have problems with oxymorons, slang, homonyms (to, too, two) etc.

Flying into and out of the U.S. also exposes pilots to differences in measuring systems, because all other countries use the metric system. This adds numerical confusion about altitudes, runway lengths, and fuel weight to the problems of phraseology noted above. Secondary annoyances about documents, such as the manner of citing dates, and the unnecessary duality of U.S. paper sizes are also noteworthy.

Native speakers of other languages have as much difficulty using English as English-speakers would have trying to use theirs. A complicating factor is the existence of 38 dialects and numerous varieties of English. Even those who seem to speak English perfectly can make fatal errors, as did the Dutch pilot in Tenerife in 1977. During an 8 year period, American pilots reported 250 language dificulties elsewhere, and American controllers reported 95 language problems here with foreign pilots, according to NBC. Russian pilots have almost landed on streets in Seattle and Israel.

Misunderstanding equipment on board aircraft is an important new type of language confusion, as noted for crashes in 1993 and 1999, above. The new digital readouts are more mentally demanding than analog ones were. Computer generated English is often misunderstood. Confusion between ROZO and ROMEO non-directional beacons caused the flight management computer to steer the 1995 Colombia flight into tragedy.

There is active resentment of the preferential treatment of English in aviation by controllers in Mexico and France.

2. LANGUAGE IMPROVEMENTS BY VOCABULARY REORGANIZATION AND EDITING

If the existing patchwork of phrases were made into a coherent entity, the 17% figure for accidents due to miscommuncation might drop by 5% or so. This improvement in safety can be achieved by following the method of the International Standards Organization for systemizing technical vocabularies. See: Suonuuti, Heidi. Guide to Terminology. The Finnish Centre for Technical Terminology for NORDTERM 8, 1997. ISBN 952-9794-09-6.

The ISO method consists of carefully defining the overall field of interest. Subdividing it repeatedly produces cells small enough for specific attention. Each of the concepts within each cell is defined. The last step is assigning words to the concepts. The resulting vocabulary has neither gaps nor overlaps. Consultants from the ISO are available for guidance if requested.

The production of this kind of vocabulary would result in elimination of many confusing items, and minimization of others. Non-metric units and acronyms should be eliminated. Homophones, homographs and homonyms should be minimized. One of the 38 dialects of English should be chosen as a model for worldwide use, and the other 37 discouraged.

3. SELECTION OF THE OPTIMUM LANGUAGE FOR AVIATION

Even after reorganizing the Englishvocabulary, many of its defects will remain. They include the following:

1. Alphabet Only 26 letters, insufficient for its approximately 42 sounds. The number of vowels and diphthongs varies according to dialect, from 18 to 24. Since it is the vowels which give clarity to language, this erratic feature of English is a threat to understanding. There are 253 ways to spell the 42 sounds of English.

2. Accented syllable No regularity in its choice. A dictionary often shows two alternate possibilities.

3. Pluralization More than a dozen methods are used in English to make plurals. The word AIRCRAFT may be either singular or plural, so a message AIRCRAFT APPROACHING is ambiguous because it could mean one or more.

4. Homographs More than 1,400 words which are spelled alike, but have different sounds. CLOSE scrape and CLOSE the door, are examples.

5. Homophones More than 7,800 words are spelled differently, but have the same sound. FOUR and FOR, TOO, TO and TWO are examples. Confusion over the last pair caused a crash in southeast Asia. Consider: THE SONS RAISE MEAT / THE SUNS RAYS MEET.

6. Homonyms More than 100,000 words have the same spelling, and the same sound, but 2 or more meanings. Words like SET and TURN have more than a dozen meanings.

7. Affixes They have ambiguous meanings and variable spellings. -NESS, -SHIP and -ITY all carry the same idea of the quality of the root word. If FLAMMABLE and INFLAMMABLE both mean burnable, what does the prefix IN- mean?

8. Idioms More than 10,000 of these culture-based expressions. To HIT THE ROAD doesnt mean to attack the pavement. SHUT UP is not the opposite of SHUT DOWN. An English speaker is apt to use idioms, as did the Seattle controller who asked a Russian pilot, Can you make the runway?

9. Irregular verbs More than 165 of them LIFT, LIFTED, HAS LIFTED is regular. GO, WENT, HAS GONE is irregular. Verbs must change for singular or plural subjects. Is CRASHES a verb or a plural noun?

10. Word order Subject, verb, object are required, except for yes-no questions, which force a change to verb, subject object.

11. Rules It has been estimated that 1000 rules are necessary to formulate English, and that there are 1,500 exceptions to these rules. It would be difficult to find a more difficult language for multinational pilots and controllers to learn.

12. Guidance There is no Academy, as there is for Esperanto, French, German and Spanish, to provide linguistic discipline. English is a headless giant.

These residual defects of English make it necessary to find a more suitable language for aviation. A scientific research organization, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, should be given a contract to determine the relative merits for aviation of several candidate languages. Through experiments the researchers could determine which language most reliably carried messages between aviation personnel of various ethnic backgrounds.

Because the Esperanto language has none of the above 12 defects of English, it seems clear that Esperanto will win in the competition for excellence. If so, it should then be installed as the universal aviation language, after an orderly transition

At this time the General Accounting Office of the U.S. government is accumulating reference information. In due course it will begin a formal study of the problems of aviation language, and move toward a solution.


Kent Jones





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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mr. Jones is a retired civil engineer who lives in Chicago. His first contact with aviation was during his service in the U.S. Navy. He was an electronic technician for the Ground Controlled Approach unit at Barbers Point Naval Air Station, Oahu, Hawaii.


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On 21 Nov. 2000 Mr. Dillingham answered my letter to him, shown below. He is a high official in the G.A.O., which oversees all parts of the U.S. government. He indicates his readiness to research the subject of aviation language at the beginning of 2001.
------------------------------------


Mr. Jones: This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter to me regarding
aviation language. We have been interested in this issue at GAO for quite some
time. It is on our list of research that we intend to do as time and resources
permit. I will be in touch with you after the holidays to discuss this matter
in further detail. Thank you for your interest.

Gerald Dillingham




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THE BABEL-TOWER OF ENGLISH DIALECTS IN THE SKY

On the ground, the many dialects of English are charming. They provide interesting accompaniments to local scenes. What would Brooklyn be without Brooklynese? Would Long Island really be itself if not pronounced LONG-GI-LAND? Boston1s lost R1s , as in POTTY for PARTY, give the city a distinctive flavor. These and a few other colorful varieties make up a dialect cluster called Northern American English.

The five other American dialect clusters within the American English group are Appalacian, Southern, Western, African American Vernacular English / Ebonics. and Native American Englishes. In addition to our American group, around the world there are seven other English dialect groups. They are the British and Irish group, the Australian and New Zealand group, East Asian group, South Asian group, African group, Caribbean group, and Canadian group. The world is the proud possessor of 38 recognized dialects of English, each with innumerable local varieties.

Joining this mosaic are those whose native language is not English, but aspire to speak it. English is but one of sixty four languages with more than 10,000,000 speakers. Due to the opulence of the English speaking world, many in the 63 groups outside English try to speak English to others and among themselves. Such popularity makes us proud of the language of Shakespeare. It also gives us 63 such hybrids as FRANGLISH and SPANGLISH, which denote French and Spanish combined with English. The funny English attempted by the Japanese was the subject of a program segment of 60-Minutes.

The result is that a tourist speaking one of the 38 dialects of English can, to some extent, be understood in many places around the world. Of course, it may be necessary to repeat one1s words, to use many gestures, to sketch an idea on paper, and to talk loudly and slowly to get an idea across.

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But in the sky, pilots can1t perform such clarifying activities. A misunderstood message from the ground-based air traffic controller, particularly during landing, can cause a crash. Yet pilots are often are exposed to messages in forms of English which are strange to them. English has been recommended for international aviation use. Pilots cross many national and linguistic borders during their flights. The nature of their work requires extreme concentration at times. The need to de-code a dialect of English strange to him can distract a pilot in the middle of a split-second action.

The air traffic controllers of the world have reciprocal problems. They are exposed to many pilots from many distant places. At any given instant a controller may be in contact with 15 aircraft, hence 15 different accents of English. American pilots and controllers have reported 345 dangerous language incidents, here and abroad, during an 8 year period.

Misunderstandings of English are responsible for many crashes and near crashes. This is evident when a pilot on the ground erroneously wanders onto a runway in active use. The controller told the pilot one thing, but he understood something else. In Chicago, on 1 April 2000, 380 people almost died when one 747 started across a runway as another was taking off. This sort of thing happens in the U.S. more than 300 times a year.


Miscommunication is blamed for about 11% of the crashes. Pilots using the wrong runway, like the recent case in Tajwan, contribute to that number. Others consist of the worst crash in aviation history, an on-the-ground crash in Tenerife in 1977 when 583 died, the American Airlines crash in 1995 in Colombia, and cases of inability to understand computer-generated messages -- both in China and in Kosovo.

The Federal Aviation Administration adds to the confusion and danger in the dialect-filled Babel Tower of the sky. Its glossary for pilots and controllers contains 44 deviations from the terms recommended by the world aviation organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization. The FAA also uses many entire phrases which are different, such as TAXI BACK instead of BACK TRACK. (See the list below as a sidebar.)

ICAO / FAA PHRASE COMPARISONS

Selected terms from the ICAO Manual of Telephony - Second Edition.

ICAO FAA

AERODROME AIRPORT
AFFIRM AFFIRMATIVE
ALL STATIONS ATTENTION ALL AIRCRAFT
APRON RAMP
BACK TRACK TAXI BACK
CIRCUIT CLOSED TRAFFIC or PATTERN
CLEAR OF TRAFFIC TRAFFIC NO FACTOR
CONFIRM VERIFY
CONTINUE APPROACH CONTINUE
CONTINUE HEADING FLY PRESENT HEADING
CONTROL (AREA CONTROL CENTER) CENTER (ARTCC)
DECIMAL POINT
DELIVERY CLEARANCE DELIVERY
DESCEND WHEN READY DESCEND AT PILOT1S DISCRETION
FOR SEPARATION FOR SPACING
HOMER DF STATION
HOW DO YOU READ? HOW DO YOU HEAR ME?
IDENTIFIED RADAR CONTACT
INFORMATION RADIO (FSS)
JOIN DOWNWIND ENTER DOWNWIND
LINE UP AND HOLD TAXI INTO POSITION AND HOLD
MAINTAIN OWN SEPARATION AND V-M-C MAINTAIN V-F-R
MAKE ANOTHER CIRCUIT REMAIN IN CLOSED TRAFFIC
MAKE ONE ORBIT MAKE ONE THREE SIXTY
NO ATC SPEED RESTRICTIONS RESUME NORMAL SPEED
OBSERVED POSITION RADAR CONTACT
OMIT POSITION REPORTS RADAR CONTACT
PASSING LEAVING
PRECISION P-A-R
RADAR CONTROL TERMINATED RADAR SERVICE TERMINATED
RADAR IDENTIFICATION LOST RADAR CONTACT LOST
READ YOU FIVE LOUD AND CLEAR
REPORT SPEED SAY SPEED
REPORT YOUR HEARING AND LEVEL SAY HEADING AND ALTITUDE
RESUME POSITION REPORTING RADAR SERVICE TERMINATED
SQUAWK CHARLIE SQUAWK ALTITUDE
SQUAWK IDENT IDENT
STOP HOLD
STOP DESCENT AMEND ALTITUDE, MAINTAIN ...
STOP SQUAWK CHARLIE WRONG INDICATION
STOP ALTITUDE SQUAWK ALTITUDE DIFFERS BY ...
STRAIGHT AHEAD STRAIGHT OUT
TAKING OFF DEPARTING
TRACK COURSE
UNABLE TO COMPLY UNABLE
UNDER RADAR CONTROL RADAR CONTACT
UNKNOWN TRAFFIC TYPE AND ALTITUDE UNKNOWN
UNSERVICEABLE OUT OF SERVICE
VACATE EXIT
VECTORING FOR VECTOR FOR
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from
The Pilot1s Reference to ATC Procedures and Phraseology, 7th Edition. 7/99

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Kent Jones, 773-271-8673. 5048 N. Marine, D6, Chicago 60640. kentjones9@aol.com

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Gerald Dillingham 9 November 2000
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues
General Accounting Office
441 G Street, NW, Room 2T23
Washington, DC 20548

Subject: THE NEED FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH TO IMPROVE AVIATION LANGUAGE.

Dear Mr. Dillingham:

During the last two years or so the topic of communication between pilots and controllers has come to my attention. The more deeply I have looked into it, the more disturbed I have become at its lack of discipline. Today I saw another British film whose language I could not understand. If I had been a pilot talking to such a controller I would surely have crashed.

Failure of aviation language can produce, and has produced, death and destruction. As a civil engineer I find the passive acceptance of the present error-prone arrangement preposterous!

This letter brings you a summary of my observations and recommendations. They have been offered to the FAA and the NTSB, who have chosen to reject them. This reaction appears to violate the U.S. Code, Chapter 49 which established the FAA. It requires that SAFETY be the top priority. Not maintenance of the comfortable status quo, not protection of American dominance of the aviation world, just enhancing SAFETY. Pilot-Controller language mistakes directly threaten flight safety.
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The general arrangement of my composition is as follows:

1. Status of aviation language
2. Language problems which exist
3. Language causes for the problems
4. Scientific language research and development
5. Linguistic analysis of crashes
6. Recommendations
7. Appendix
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It is my belief that a rationally planned system of language can reduce accidents due to miscommunication in the future. I hope that it will be your good offices which bring this about.


Sincerely,



Kent Jones, 773-271-8673. e-mail kentjones9@aol.com
5048 N. Marine Drive, D6
Chicago 60640

ATTACHED
Observations and Recommendations Concerning Aviation Language
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING AVIATION LANGUAGE

1. Status of Aviation language

In 1951, without any scientific justification, the ICAO vaguely recommended the English language for worldwide use. It failed to specify which dialect of English was preferred. Aircraft then were relatively few, short range, small and slow.

Today there are 189 members of the United Nations system which supports the ICAO. Aircraft are large, and growing larger. They travel longer distances at higher speeds to more and more foreign airports. The exposure to accidents is ever greater as the skies become more crowded.

The hundreds of thousands of pilots and controllers of the world intend that flying be safe. They speak dozens of native languages. The non-English speakers have sincerely tried to learn some form of English. Their success has been frustrated by its irregularities.

The recognized dialects of English have now increased to 38, each with many varieties produced by local accents. English lacks an Academy to give it unity and discipline. It is unlikely that the resulting confused usages can produce reliable communication.

Americans seem to be less conscious about language than others. This holds true at the NTSB, where no linguist signs off to the contribution language confusion may have made to accidents or incidents which occur in aviation. The NTSB plays ostrich to the influence of miscomprehension.

The FAA believes that all pilots and controllers need basic conversational ability, as well as proficiency in air traffic control terms, in (the unspecified dialects of) English. It is now engaged in forcing the ICAO to require that all foreign pilots and controllers pass a test in English as a precondition to their employment.

2. Language problems which exist

Today about 65% of aviation accidents and incidents are blamed on pilot error, many due to English language failure. The Italian daily La Repubblica estimated the figure at 11%. A CBS/Dan Rather program discussed the problem. A TV program on NBC, 18 January 2000 dealt with this issue, finding 250 dangerous language events overseas and 95 in the U.S. since 1988. (A video tape of these programs is available upon request.)

http://www.msnbc.com/news/358541.asp Search under PLANE ENGLISH.



The book FATAL WORDS: Communication clashes and Aircraft Crashes (Steven Cushing. 1994. U. of Chicago Press) describes several accidents traceable to ambiguities and other defects of English. The homophones, TO and TWO accounted for a crash, and there are 7,781 homophones in English. There are also 1,400 homographs (CLOSE, CLOSE) and more than 50,000 homonyms - words with more than 1 meaning. English also contains more than 10,000 idioms like HIT THE ROAD -- with a hammer or fist?
OTHER MISUNDERSTANDINGS OF ENGLISH

1. RUNWAY INCURSIONS
Taxiing onto an active runway is very dangerous, and no pilot would intentionally do this. Therefore incursions are direct evidence of misunderstandings of English. Nationwide there are more than 300 runway incursions yearly, indicating that even English-speaking pilots have problems understanding English.

Concerning runway incursions, see

http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/2020/2020_000324_runwaycrash_feature.html

Three recent examples -

8 Mar 2000OSLO, NORWAYThree Scandinavian SAS MD81/82 were involved in a runway near-miss chain at Oslo-Gardermoen, Norway, when an MD82 from Bod with 116 pax landed long, beyond last taxiway, due to slippery runway. The aircraft was taxiing back on the runway in fog and mist,when another MD82 for Bergen, Norway with 150 pax was cleared for take-off roll. The two MD80's rolled head-on, and the departing flight took off 300 m before a collission, passing the other plane at approx 150 ft. At the same time a third MD81 from Copenhagen with 124 pax was approaching the same runway but aborted descent on time.

1 Apr 2000 CHICAGO A Chinese 747 got in the way of another 747 which was taking off. Only quick thinking saved 380 lives.

20 Apr 2000 THESSALONIKI, GREECECrossair MD83 from Thessaloniki, Greece to Zrich, Switzerland with 80 pax was about to enter active runway in front of an Alitalia plane taking off, when pilot did not stop for a holding point line. Pilot was suspended. No injuries.

2. UNAUTHORIZED TAKEOFFS AND LANDINGS
These pose a direct threat of a collision. But what else can a foreign pilot do if he cannot understand the controller? London experiences an average of 1 unauthorized takeoff each year. Concerning landings, Aeroflot planes have started to land on a city street in Seattle and a highway in Israel.

3. WRONG AIRPORTS AND RUNWAYS
What better example of miscommunication than not knowing at which airport you are about to land? This happened in Turkey in 1976 where 155 died, in Mexico, and in Ecuador in 1999. Landing on the wrong runway risks a collision. Singapore Airlines used 5R instead of 5L.

4. IGNORED TOWER INSTRUCTIONS
This led to a crash in Surinam in 1989, where 177 died. A pilot can1t obey orders he doesn1t understand.


5. INABILITY TO UNDERSTAND COMPUTER-GENERATED ENGLISH
The ground proximity alarm on the MD-80 worked perfectly. But the last words of the Chinese pilot on the cockpit voice recorder were, What does pull up mean1 ? Recently 24 died in a crash of a U.N. plane in Kosovo. Moments before, the Italian pilot radioed that he couldn't understand some computer words.

6. CONFUSION AMONG THREE DIALECTS
There are 38 distinct dialects of English, and innumerable mixtures with local accents. Under a Hindi controller, a Kazakh airplane collided in midair with an Arabic one. Three of the 349 deaths were Americans. Another trio was involved in New York in 1999 - Icelandair, Air France, and an American controller. A collision was narrowly missed.

7. BAD FORMULATION OF ENGLISH
The 1995 American Airlines crash in Colombia might have been avoided had the Spanish-speaking controller been able to express himself in English, according to his testimony. The New York crash in 1990 for the lack of fuel was the direct consequence of incorrect wording by the Spanish-speaking copilot.
On the American side, controllers often use everyday English instead of aviation English. A Seattle controller asked a Russian pilot, 3Can you make the runway?2 (Build it?) The word HOLD has a different meaning in avciation, and this caused a 1981 crash in California.

8. BLURRED COMPREHENSION OF PROCEDURES
The 1998 Korean Airlines crash in Guam was partly due to a misunderstanding about ILS availability. If you cannot understand instruction manuals, you cannot follow them.

9. TRANSLATORS IN THE COCKPIT WITH THE PILOTS
It is reported that this is a relatively frequent occurrence on foreign airlines. Immediate, reflexive obedience to a controller command by the pilot becomes impossible when a message must be hurriedly translated (correctly?) and relayed. Recently a UAL pilot, approaching Mexico City, found it necessary to call a passenger to the cockpit to help understand the controller.

3. Language causes of the problems

Pilot errors are blamed for 65% of aviation accidents. But what caused the mistakes? Why did they blunder onto a runway where they shouldn1t be? Why did they fly at the wrong altitude? Why did they turn right when they should have turned left? Obviously they were confused.

Here are some possible causes for confusion in English messages, particularly by foreigners. It is noteworthy that the Flight Safety Foundation assigns a higher risk factor to flights whose pilot or controller is not a native speaker of English.



1. Linguistic causes
a. The differing sounds of the 38 dialects.
b. The spelling problem in trying to read an emergency manual
c. Erratic accented syllable
d. Irregular verbs
e. Plurals made in more than 10 ways
f. Etc.

2. Numerical causes

a. Non-metric units (feet, nautical miles) force mental conversion of heights, runway lengths, etc.)

3. Procedural causes

a. FAA Glossary differs in 44 items from ICAO usage.

b. FAA phraseology differs also. As follows:
Selected terms from the ICAO Manual of Telephony - Second Edition.
ICAO FAA

AERODROME AIRPORT
AFFIRM AFFIRMATIVE
ALL STATIONS ATTENTION ALL AIRCRAFT
APRON RAMP
BACK TRACK TAXI BACK
CIRCUIT CLOSED TRAFFIC or PATTERN
CLEAR OF TRAFFIC TRAFFIC NO FACTOR
CONFIRM VERIFY
CONTINUE APPROACH CONTINUE
CONTINUE HEADING FLY PRESENT HEADING
CONTROL (AREA CONTROL CENTER) CENTER (ARTCC)
DECIMAL POINT
DELIVERY CLEARANCE DELIVERY
DESCEND WHEN READY DESCEND AT PILOT'S DISCRETION
FOR SEPARATION FOR SPACING
HOMER DF STATION
HOW DO YOU READ? HOW DO YOU HEAR ME?
IDENTIFIED RADAR CONTACT
INFORMATION RADIO (FSS)
JOIN DOWNWIND ENTER DOWNWIND
LINE UP AND HOLD TAXI INTO POSITION AND HOLD
MAINTAIN OWN SEPARATION AND V-M-C / MAINTAIN V-F-R
MAKE ANOTHER CIRCUIT REMAIN IN CLOSED TRAFFIC
MAKE ONE ORBIT MAKE ONE THREE SIXTY
NO ATC SPEED RESTRICTIONS RESUME NORMAL SPEED
OBSERVED POSITION RADAR CONTACT
OMIT POSITION REPORTS RADAR CONTACT
PASSING LEAVING
PRECISION P-A-R
RADAR CONTROL TERMINATED RADAR SERVICE TERMINATED
RADAR IDENTIFICATION LOST RADAR CONTACT LOST
READ YOU FIVE LOUD AND CLEAR
REPORT SPEED SAY SPEED
REPORT YOUR HEARING AND LEVEL SAY HEADING AND ALTITUDE
RESUME POSITION REPORTING RADAR SERVICE TERMINATED
SQUAWK CHARLIE SQUAWK ALTITUDE
SQUAWK IDENT IDENT
STOP HOLD
STOP DESCENT AMEND ALTITUDE, MAINTAIN ...
STOP SQUAWK CHARLIE WRONG INDICATION
STOP ALTITUDE SQUAWK ALTITUDE DIFFERS BY ...
STRAIGHT AHEAD STRAIGHT OUT
TAKING OFF DEPARTING
TRACK COURSE
UNABLE TO COMPLY UNABLE
UNDER RADAR CONTROL RADAR CONTACT
UNKNOWN TRAFFIC TYPE AND ALTITUDE UNKNOWN
UNSERVICEABLE OUT OF SERVICE
VACATE EXIT
VECTORING FOR VECTOR FOR
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from The Pilot1s Reference to ATC Procedures and Phraseology, 7th Edition. 7/99

4. Scientific research and development

The missing element in the puzzle of aviation language is scientific research. It was improper in 1951 to make a fuzzy recommendation to use English for international aviation without experiments and analysis to validate the choice. Thus we have been operating with a language of unproved communicative merit for 49 years.

The problems of aviation language could be minimized or eliminated with a modest program of scientific research. It might resemble the research done by the organization Consumers1 Union, which evaluates the relative merits of such things as automobiles and insurance policies.

The project might be done in three phases. The first would establish which of the 38 dialects of English communicates best between native English speakers. How much understanding is lost when a pilot from Boston talks with a controller in Australia, compared to a fellow Bostonian? Some dialects have 15 vowels and diphthongs, others have 24. Which transmits messages most effectively? Until we have quantified answers to these questions it is impossible to formulate a sensible language policy for the 3English2 usage of the present day.

The second phase should focus on improvement for the future. It would evaluate the international communication efficacy of the best dialect of English in comparison with a few other languages. It might start with the three having the discipline of language Academies (Esperanto, French, Spanish) and continue with any others thought to have merit.

The ethnic groups to be tested with each candidate language would represent dissimilar families, such as Russian, Chinese, Arabic and Hindi. The accuracy of message reception of group members who know each candidate language could be experimentally measured. The report would establish objectively which language is the most reliable communicator for worldwide aviation for the next century.

The final phase would optimize the application of the language found to be best. Its vocabulary would be developed with the systematic principles of Terminology Committee 37 of the International Standards Organization in Vienna, Austria. The present vocabulary is a mess.
5. Linguistic analysis of crashes

Inattention to linguistic factors by the NTSB causes the loss of data needed for improvements in language use. A history of the language facts surrounding aviation crashes and incidents can enable future analysts to perceive various commonalities. Such a rich data collection can provide a solid base for understanding some of the seemingly irrational behaviors of pilots.

Because the NTSB doesn1t find a chunk of broken English in the debris field it concludes that language was not a factor in crashes. It is easy to say that pilot error caused a crash. But why the error? The meaning we take out of a sentence depends upon how the information was packaged and upon our language backgrounds when we hear or see it. These are linguistic phenomena. The NTSB shirks its duty by sweeping the language problem under its rug.

Thus all the linguistic data surrounding an incident should receive analysis by a professional linguist. Yet the NTSB doesn1t have a professional linguist on its staff. It cannot now competently appraise what if any influence language confusion had in accidents and incidents. The needed rigorous investigation of this problem area is now neglected by the National Transportation Safety Board. The result is continued ignorance about the nature and scope of language confusion in aviation.

The worst accident in aviation history was due to language confusion. It occurred in 1977 in the Canary Islands. The Dutch KLM pilot started down the runway and crashed into a 747 full of people. He had misunderstood an information statement from the tower to be permission to take off. Then he thought he advised the tower that he was in the process of taking off. His actual wording of English, 3at takeoff2 signified to the tower that he was obediently sitting in position to start flight when given permission. But the AT in the Dutch language carries the same meaning as -ING in English. So he thought that he told the tower that he was takING off. But the tower thought he was motionless and didn1t warn the other plane. There were 583 fiery deaths as a result.

A report by Grayson and Billings studied 6,527 reports submitted by pilots and controllers to ASRS. Ambiguous phraseology accounted for 529, phonetic similarity for 71, and garbled phraseology for 171. Thus explicit items of significance to a linguist were 10.5 % of the reason for these reports of danger.

Runway incursions cry for linguistic analysis. The pilot misunderstands instructions, then wrongly wanders onto a runway in active use. This happens 320 times a year in the U.S. What is the linguistic basis for these dangerous errors? The data should receive professional linguistic scrutiny, but it doesn1t



Even language misunderstanding by the ground crew can cause trouble. If unable to understand or read, they might load dangerous materials or might disrupt weight and balance of the aircraft.

A professional linguist1s statement must be a formal part of each accident report. A linguistic recommendation about dialects is urgently needed. The NTSB cannot perform its statutory duty to provide guidance to the FAA so long as it avoids language problems.

6. Recommendations

A. That the FAA initiate a comprehensive, scientific language research and development project, as described above.

B. That the NTSB be required to include a professional linguistic appraisal as part of the report of each accident

7. Appendix

A. List of 38 Dialects

ENGLISH AROUND THE WORLD, from 1999 Encarta World English Dictionary.

38 dialects in 8 general groups

British and Irish English
English English
Scottish English
Scots
Welsh English
Irish English
Australian and New Zealand English
Australian English
Aboriginal English
Maori English
New Zealand English
East Asian English
Philippines English
Hawaiian English
Singapore English
Hong Kong English
Malaysian English
South Asian English
Sri Lankan English
Bangladeshi English
Pakistani English
Indian English
African English
Nigerian English
Ghanaian English
Sierra Leone English
East African Englishes
South African English
Caribbean English
Jamaican English
Patwa
Bahamian
Barbadian / Bajan
Trinidadian

Canadian English
Inuit English
Quebec English
Canadian Standard English
Atlantic Provinces English
American English
Northern
Appalacian English
Southern
Western
African American Vernacular English / Ebonics
Native American Englishes


B. A nonsense poem, to illustrate the craziness of English. The FAA wants all pilots and controllers to have the ability to converse about everyday topics, according to one of its publications. This poem shows many booby traps which prevent the learning of English by foreigners. Even lifelong English speakers have difficulty reading this aloud.


ENGLISH IS TOUGH STUFF

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head wish heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak.
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem , and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar.
Solar, mica war, and far,
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, fiver, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Nor does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,

Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Inquiry does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Marie, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey and key,
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass,
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but there.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Steven,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spiky?
Won1t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It1s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough:
Though , through, plough, dough, or cough ?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!

 
 

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